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Obesity & Your Dog: What You Should Know

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Fat-Dog

Obesity is a serious issue in America. According to the CDC, “34.9% or 78.6 million adults in the United States are obese” (Source). Obesity may lead to a range of health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart problems (among other issues), according to WebMD (Source).

But while a number of us fight to keep ourselves healthy, there’s another obesity problem that’s slowly growing, and it involves man’s best friend. Pet obesity—especially among dogs—is also growing, and it may cause many health issues for your furry friend, too.

A National Epidemic

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), “an estimated 54% of dogs [and cats] in the United States are overweight or obese” (Source). It should be common sense that obesity can (and in many cases, will) shorten your dog’s life, but sadly, many pet owners don’t even realize their pets are overweight or obese.

Statistics from the APOP

Each year, the APOP conducts the National Pet Obesity Prevalence Survey, which takes a look at the percentage of obese cats and dogs in the United States. What they found is worrisome:

  • 53% of dogs were overweight in 2014 (Source)
  • 95% of dog owners incorrectly identified their pet as a normal weight (Source)
  • 40% of dogs with high blood pressure are overweight (Source)
  • 42% of diabetic, 40% of arthritic, and 61% of hypothyroid dogs are overweight (Source)

This increasingly upward shift is alarming because the number of people who can’t identify an obese pet is growing, and according to the APOP and Dr. Ernie Ward, “obesity is the number one health threat pets face, and the most important pet health decision owners make each day is what and how much they feed” (Source).

Your Dog & the Health Risks of Obesity

10358713_10102326220083368_21621150291741663_nI have a nine-year-old mini dachshund named Wilko. (That’s him in the photo.) Wilko may be considered a senior dog, but he’s full of life all the time, much more often than myself some days.

He also weighs almost 20 pounds.

My dog is built. He’s bigger than most mini dachshunds I’ve seen, which has always made me wonder if he’s a fatty. Our veterinarian has advised us to keep an eye on his weight, and we do. Diligently. Wilko goes for a run with me in the morning, and he goes for a walk at night. He’s also on a diet, and is only fed one cup of food a day (and he rarely eats all of it). He’s losing weight, and given his age, we’re happy with how he’s doing.

The question is though, what happens when your dog is too fat? Obesity can be scary for a pet and a pet owner, but the good news is that there are ways to help your dog stay healthy.

Possible Health Risks for Obese Dogs

According to PetMD, there may be a number of different causes for your dog’s obesity, including an alternating, high-calorie diet, a lack of exercise, hypothyroidism, and neutering, among others (Source). For many dogs, the issue may be with their diet. Unhealthy food choices and letting your dog eat as much as he or she wants in a day is never a good choice.

When it comes to the health risks for dogs, obesity may contribute to the following, according to Dr. Jean Dodds:

  • Cardiorespiratory diseases and airway obstruction
  • Endocrine disorders and hypothyroidism
  • Decreased respiratory capacity, intolerance to heat, and decreased immune health and function
  • Metabolic abnormalities
  • Osteoarthritis and intervertebral disk disease
  • High blood pressure and diabetes

The APOP has even stated that “overweight dogs are at an increased risk for numerous diseases and live an average of two years less than those of ideal weight” (Source).

Keeping Your Dog Healthy

Depending on the extent of your dog’s obesity, it may take a while to help get him or her healthy again, but there are a number of tools and tips for doing so.

The APOP offers a wide range of helpful tools for everything from weight equivalency charts and calorie calculators to tips on aerobic dog walking and healthy feeding.

Calculating the amount of calories your dog eats is extremely important. As the APOP says, “fewer calories in plus more calories out equals weight loss” (Source). Every dog requires a different amount of calories, so it’s important that you correctly calculate the amount for your own pet. Always be sure to consult your veterinarian as well.

When it comes to exercise, a leisurely stroll likely won’t do much for your dog’s weight. The average pace for walking a miles is between 20 and 25 minutes, and that just won’t cut it for Fido’s weight. The APOP offers the following advice when it comes to walking your dog:

“Make your objective to walk briskly and stay focused on the “out” leg of your walk, then you can smell the roses on the “back” leg. We recommend starting the activity with a brisk effort first. Too often, if we try to start slowly with the dog, allowing them to sniff and smell everything, we may have a challenging time getting them up to speed when we’re ready” (Source).

Exercise, regular veterinary checkups, and a healthy diet are all very important keys to ensuring your dog lives a long, happy, and healthy life. Take care of your pet as you would yourself, and you’ll both live longer, healthier lives—together!

Natural Healthy Concepts carries a wide range of natural pet products from brands like Wondercide and Pet Wellbeing that will help keep your pets healthy and active.

How do you keep your pet healthy? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!

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